"Lee Kitzman makes delicate vessels using Raku firing techniques. He's also mastered the art of using paints and glazes to create unique finishes on his work. He's been making ceramic pieces as an artist and an educator for three decades." -OPB TV, featuring Lee Kitzman on Art Beat.
By Nancy Raskauskas, Gazette Times, November 12, 2009
PHILOMATH — Laura Berman and Lee Kitzman are both well-known and respected artists in their mediums, textiles and ceramics respectively. They also happen to be married to each other. The couple has built adjoining studios near their home, nestled in the foothills of the Coast Range, off Marys River Estates Road west of Philomath. Berman and Kitzman’s skills have won fans far outside of Philomath. In fact, Kitzman was featured on the OPB “Oregon Art Beat” television show earlier this week (catch a replay at 6 p.m. Sunday), and Berman is also scheduled to appear on the show in the coming months.
Kitzman is originally from Colorado and moved to Oregon in the early 1970s. Berman is a third-generation Oregonian from Portland, who attended Oregon State University. They met in 1983 and moved in together in Philomath in 1989. Both studied art in college (Kitzman at a teacher’s college and Berman in clothing and textiles and related arts in what is now OSU’s college of Health and Human Sciences) but have since moved far past their initial training to create their own distinctive styles of craft.
A master potter, Kitzman dabbles in many styles, but has special expertise in raku. His work has been influenced by several trips to Japan, where the couple’s grown daughter lives. “It’s all about attempting to do the absolute best quality,” Kitzman said. An educator at heart, he taught art classes, including ceramics, for 23 years at the Children’s Farm Home and later at Corvallis High School.
Berman creates ornate scarves and whimsical vessels out of felt. She takes pride in “not cheating” or hand-sewing, instead relying on the felting process to knit together her pieces. A week’s work for Berman is often just two scarves, due to the time-intensive process. “They become a labor of love,” she said. “Each is one of a kind. I don’t do production work.”
Berman and Kitzman have been with Philomath Open Studios since the group formed about seven years ago. They both feel the group has helped elevate the local art scene. “It’s a fabulous group to belong to because it is really stimulating,” Berman said. “We’ve seen everyone grow in the quality of their art,” Kitzman said. “We try to always stay fresh.”
On a recent evening, green bowls and vases fresh from firing in the larger of two kilns filled the central workbench in Kitzman’s studio, waiting to be finished. Through an open doorway, one could glimpse the first stages of one of Berman’s signature scarves in a partially laid-out pattern of colorful wool fibers.
The open studios weekends are a chance for visitors to ask questions, share in the creative synergy of the Philomath artists’ community and perhaps even buy a piece of artwork directly from the maker. “It’s more personal and we like to keep it that way,” Kitzman said. “I think it’s really educational for the artist, too, because you get feedback,” Berman added.